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How Effective Is Immune Globulin for Hepatitis a?

By B. Chisholm
Updated May 17, 2024
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Immune globulin for hepatitis A prophylaxis, both pre-exposure and post-exposure, has been shown to be highly effective in reducing Hepatitis A infection in people at risk. It is often used in combination with the Hepatitis A vaccine, depending on the patient and their circumstances. Hepatitis A is mostly endemic in developing countries, although cases have been reported in developed countries too.

Hepatitis A is spread by the oral-fecal route and is highly contagious. It may be spread by sharing utensils, sexual exposure, sharing needles or just direct contact with an infected person. Symptoms develop between two and six weeks after exposure and they may persist for up to six months. Symptoms may include loss of appetite, jaundice, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine and low-grade fever.

Medical attention should be sought by anyone experiencing these symptoms or anyone who has been exposed to a person with hepatitis A. When given within 14 days of exposure, immune globulin for hepatitis A prophylaxis may be very effective. Depending on the age and clinical history of the patient, hepatitis A vaccine may be given at the same time. There is no actual treatment for hepatitis A.

For people who live in or are traveling to an endemic area, or who are at high risk for other reasons, such as working on a sewerage plant or in an institution, the hepatitis A vaccination may be recommended. In some cases, where the vaccine cannot be used, immune globulin for hepatitis A prevention may be used. The decision of whether to use one or the other, or both, will be made by the treating doctor, using clinical judgment.

The dose of immune globulin for hepatitis A prophylaxis is determined by weight. It is given intra-muscularly, usually as a single dose although, rarely, in the case of people who cannot receive the vaccine and who are going to be at risk for an extended period, may get it at four to six-monthly intervals. Immune globulin is usually given only by prescription and requires a medical professional for administration. The immune globulin may be known by different trade names in different countries by manufacturer.

Once a person has had hepatitis A, they become immune to the disease. It is thought that this is the reason why it is more commonly found in younger people who do not yet have immunity. With improved hygiene and sanitation worldwide, the disease has become less common.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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